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How to Generate Leads: 41 Strategies That Work (Paid & Free!)

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How to Generate Leads: 41 Strategies That Work (Paid & Free!)

Think about the last big ticket purchase you made. Did you find out about the business or product and then immediately become a customer? 61% of marketers say generating traffic and leads is their number one challenge.

Table of contents

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is the process of capturing the contact information of potential customers for your business. It often takes multiple encounters with a business before a person becomes a customer, so with their contact information, you can initiate these encounters—and make them impressionable—through useful content.

The idea is to build trust and stay top of mind so that eventually, when these leads are ready to buy, they choose you.

Lead generation is especially important for businesses that involve:

  • Big ticket purchases: real estate, financial services, solar
  • High returns on new leads: law firms
  • Slower sales cycle: B2B SaaS
  • Ecommerce: coupons

How to generate leads: The basics

Every lead generation strategy is going to look different from business to business, but regardless, there are four fundamentals that apply across the board.

1. Offer

Every lead generation strategy needs something that your prospective leads feel is worth exchanging their contact information for—also known as the lead magnet. In addition to being of value, make sure it’s also relevant to your products and services so that you’re attracting quality leads.

Examples of offers include:

  • Content (reports, checklists, guides, cheat sheets)
  • Free tools (calculators, graders, quizzes)
  • Newsletters
  • Swag
  • Free trials
  • Demos
  • Free consults

how to generate leads - lead magnet examples

The best offer will vary depending on the channel you’re promoting it on (such as your website, search engines, or social media), the segment of your audience you are targeting, and their intent and mindset.

2. Landing page and form

Your landing page is the page the person lands on after clicking the call to action button for the offer. This page contains all of features and benefits of the offer, plus the form the user fills out to obtain it.

Tips for your lead generation landing pages:

  • Make sure the messaging is the same as the ad or piece of content leading to it.
  • Keep form fields to a minimum.
  • Test your forms to make sure they populate leads in your CRM.
  • Use anything BUT “submit” as your CTA button language

a perfectly optimized landing page

3. Thank you page

The thank you page is where the user lands after submitting their contact information. You achieve this by making the URL for the form submit button the thank you page.

A good thank you page has the following qualities:

  • Confirms for your potential customer that the transaction is complete.
  • Thanks them for their interest in your business.
  • Contains the offer such as a link to a PDF or the steps to obtain it (like check your inbox).
  • Promotes a secondary offer.
  • Tracks conversions.

4. Tracking and CRM

Generating leads is only the first step. You need to follow up with them and nurture them so they become customers. If you have a small business, a spreadsheet may do. But even then, it’s hard to keep track of each individual lead’s journey. And this is important because you want to cater your communication to whichever stage they’re at, and whatever touchpoint brought them to your business. A customer relationship management (CRM) or lead management software can help you automate personalized and meaningful communication.

how to generate leads - lead management example

How to generate leads with your website

While there are many ways to generate leads for your business off your website, the majority of your leads will be captured on it. The idea is to optimize each page for lead generation and then drive relevant traffic to your site.

Step #1: Optimize your website to generate leads

Ideally, every page on your website should provide an opportunity for a visitor to become a lead. This can be done in a tasteful way using a mix of strategies. For example:

how to generate leads - sticky sidebar offer example

Step #2: Match offer with intent

Keep in mind that a visitor’s intent will be different on different pages of your site, so cater your offers accordingly.

  • Homepage: Your homepage should have a prominent call to action for your main product or service above the fold, with secondary lead-generating offers below the fold. However, if you are a lead gen-focused business, your primary offer may be a lead-focused offer such as a free consult or trial.
  • Contact us page: The only lead-generating offer on your contact us page should be a contact form. Rather than providing an email address, replace it with a form that will send a notification to your email.
  • Products and services page: Be careful with your products and services pages. The main CTA on these pages should be to purchase the product or service, but you might want to use a live chat widget for those who may have questions before committing.
  • Testimonials page. Your testimonials page will attract well-qualified traffic, but you may not want to interrupt their research process with other offers. You might leave a chat widget on this page or test out gating your success stories. Those who care enough to fill out a form to view the story are going to be highly interested in your business.
  • Blog posts: Intent to buy on your blog is going to be lower than intent to learn. Your lead magnets on your blog posts should be lower-funnel, such as guides, checklists, or newsletter signups.

content marketing funnel

Step #3: Drive traffic to your lead-generating website

Once your website is optimized to generate leads, now it’s time to optimize it to generate traffic. Not just any traffic, but qualified traffic. That is, visitors who are going to be most interested in your lead magnets. This means employing a combination of SEO and business promotion strategies, such as:

  • Blog posting: Write high-quality blog posts containing information that your target audience is looking up online. Use keyword research tools to pick the best topics to target.
  • Backlink building: Well-targeted content will get found on search engines, but earning backlinks to that content from other reputable sights will help it to rank higher and accumulate even more relevant traffic.
  • Local SEO: Optimizing your listings is a top lead generation strategy for local businesses. Prioritize your Google Business Profile and use our tips to optimize your listing.
  • Social media: Social media is a powerful lead generation tool! Post regularly with links to your blog posts. Engage with your current followers, share others’ content, using hashtags, and run contests. More followers = more traffic. Tips to generate B2B leads from LinkedIn here.
  • Influencer collaborations: Partner with a popular influencer who has a large following in your market. Whether that’s through a guest post, a video, or an AMA, this can help drive traffic from a relevant audience to your social channels and website.
  • Newsletter emails: Send out interesting, informative, and useful emails with links to your website and landing pages. People on your email list are already leads for your business, but it’s important to keep them coming back to your site and engaging with other offers, so they can move further down the funnel and keep your business at the top of their minds.
  • Paid traffic campaigns: Most ad platforms have some form of traffic objective that allows you to drive visitors to your site, but these platforms also tend to have lead gen or conversion objectives, which are going to be more useful. We’ll talk about those next.

More ways to generate leads online

The above strategy is essential for generating leads for your business, but it is more or less a passive approach: turn your website into a lead engine that’s always working for you, and then send users there where they can basically choose their own adventure.

This is essential, but here are some more lead generation ideas that are more active and targeted. Take a look:

Run conversion campaigns

Rather than sending people to your website to just come across your lead magnets (like guides, checklists, and free tools), you can directly promote those offers using paid media campaigns through search, social, display, and YouTube ads. These are the “conversion” campaigns I talked about a little bit ago. Be sure to create dedicated landing pages for those offers, catered to that channel and that specific target audience.

Why spend money to generate leads rather than customers? Because you can nurture these leads. And with the targeting capabilities of online advertising, you can capture highly qualified, highly nurturable leads.

Experiment with lead form ads

Most ad platforms offer a lead form ad (Facebook offers lead ads, Google offers lead form extensions), which means that when a user clicks on the ad, they aren’t directed to a landing page on your site; instead, a form appears right on that platform. This lower-friction approach can be useful in generating higher volumes of leads than with landing page campaigns, but you do have to be mindful of lead quality with these.

how to generate leads - lead form ad example on google

Here’s an example of a lead form ad on Google.

Host contests & giveaways

Everyone likes free stuff, so what better way to generate leads than by doing contests and giveaways? Just be sure to offer something relevant to your business, and to have a way of collecting contest entrant contact information. Otherwise, you’re only gaining followers, not leads.

While they may not immediately generate your highest quality leads, contests and giveaways help you to build an audience as well as brand affinity.

Run referral programs

Establish a referral program with your existing customers. This is a great customer engagement strategy that will also bring new leads through the door.

how to generate leads - referral program example

More ways to generate leads offline

Just because your lead-generating powerhouses (your website, search engines, and social) are online does not mean that all of your strategies should take place there. Do not ignore these good old-fashioned offline marketing strategies for generating leads!

Capitalize on events

  • Sponsor local events: Sponsor events that are applicable to your business, such as a bike shop sponsoring a local race. Include your contact information on your signage and swag, or set up a stand where interested prospects can interact with you and sign up for your newsletter.
  • Attend industry events: Industry trade shows and networking events can connect you to a large number of new potential prospects that you can follow up with and nurture in the days and weeks afterward. Building relationships with other business owners and industry professionals can also help you in your lead generation efforts—just don’t make that the goal of the relationship. Follow our networking strategies and tips for more on that front!
  • Host your own events: Host events at your location or partner with a brick-and-mortar business if you don’t have one. Think tutorials, seminars, free sessions, family fun nights. Have a signup sheet at the event for your email list or collect contact information for a giveaway that night.

Try out print ads

Break through the online clutter by trying print ads in a local newspaper. To find the right publications for your print ads, consider the volume and frequency of distribution, the characteristics of its readers, and the cost. Contacting your business via a print ad or postcard may have a little more friction than an online CTA, but you may also find that the people who take the action despite the friction are high-quality leads.

Send direct mail

A well-designed and properly targeted postcard or care package can be a great way to stand out from your competitors. Just make sure you include a specific CTA—to use a coupon in-store, to go to a specific landing page on your site, or to use a specific promo code.

Image source

Give out swag

Free and useful items with your brand and contact information are a great way to reach leads for your business. Try sunglasses, frisbees, hats, drink koozies, pens, notepads, and more. You can hand out swag at your store, at special events, or use it for competition prizes. You can also use signs, flyers, and car wraps on your own properties.

Reach out to local media outlets

If you’re a small or local business, see what kind of levers you can pull within your community:

  • Local radio ads: Similar to online ads, you can target by audience and even time of day.
  • Local TV: Local news outlets regularly feature small businesses on their morning shows … often for free! Reach out to local TV and radio stations and find out how to get on air.
  • Local press: Have a story-worthy event or cause to talk about, a unique take on a current event, tips for your community, or just a cool founding story? Pitch to the press and see if you can get some PR, whether through a press release or feature story.

best ways to promote your business get featured in local newspaper

Provide excellent customer service

Referral programs are great and all, but the best referral you can get? From a customer who was just so dang pleased with the service you provided, that they took it upon themselves to recommend you to others. Provide products and services that are truly a cut above the rest, and you’ll find yourself attracting new leads organically.

Final tips on generating leads

As I mentioned earlier in this post, generating leads is only the first part of the equation. Proper lead management is the key to ensuring you turn those leads into customers. That said, here are some final tips for a solid lead generation process:

  • Track everything: Use UTMs, campaign IDs, or other tracking methods so you can understand which offers are driving the most leads and which ones aren’t worth your time or money.
  • Track conversion from lead to customer: It’s important to note not only the offers that are generating the most leads, but also the offers that have the highest lead-to-customer conversion rate.
  • Follow up with your leads: The whole point of lead generation is to turn them into customers for your business. This rarely happens on a first encounter, so be sure to follow up with your leads more than once—catering your communication to the offer that led them to your business.

 

How to generate leads, the big list:

  1. Reports
  2. Checklists
  3. Guides
  4. Cheat sheets
  5. Webinars
  6. Newsletters
  7. Calculators
  8. Graders
  9. Quizzes
  10. Other free tools
  11. Swag
  12. Free trials
  13. Demos
  14. Consults
  15. Case studies
  16. Courses
  17. Anchor text
  18. Buttons
  19. Embedded forms
  20. Chatbots
  21. Sidebars and bottom rails
  22. Blogging
  23. Backlinks
  24. Listings
  25. Social posting
  26. Influencer collaborations
  27. Paid conversion campaigns
  28. Lead form ads
  29. Contests and giveaways
  30. Referral programs
  31. Sponsor events
  32. Attend events
  33. Host events
  34. Print ads
  35. Direct mail
  36. Swag
  37. Car wraps and signage
  38. Radio ads
  39. TV ads
  40. Local press
  41. Customer service

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Facebook vs TikTok Ads: Key Differences & How to Use Them Together

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Facebook vs TikTok Ads: Key Differences & How to Use Them Together

Facebook and TikTok are two juggernauts in the world of social media marketing.

These platforms are hugely popular with advfertisers around the globe, and that’s not surprising. Both attract colossal audiences, both offer data-driven targeting options, and both are packed with powerful marketing tools.

However, if you’re thinking about including Facebook and TikTok in your paid social plans, then you need to understand the key differences between these platforms and how to effectively use both networks together.

In that’s exactly what we’re going to cover in this post! Let’s start with a little introduction to each platform.

Table of contents

What are Facebook ads?

Let’s start with a little Facebook advertising 101. Facebook ads are image-based ads with captions that are delivered across the Facebook network.

They can be served in various placements, including Facebook Stories, Facebook Messenger, the Facebook home feed, and more. They’re also available in a wide range of different formats, and these formats are often designed to achieve specific campaign objectives.

facebook ad examples - grin

For example, while Single Image and Video ads can be great for top-funnel activity, Collection and Advantage+ ads are built to generate clicks and conversions.

One of the biggest strengths of the Facebook advertising platform is its targeting capabilities. Facebook harvests a huge amount of data from its users, which allows advertisers to leverage advanced targeting tactics that can deliver exceptional results.

You can also easily extend Facebook ad campaigns onto the Instagram platform, which is great for securing incremental reach and targeting new audiences.

instagram ads costs: instagram ad examples

More Instagram ad examples here.

What are TikTok ads?

Now time for some TikTok advertising 101. Like Facebook ads, TikTok ads are also available in a range of different formats.

However, while Facebook ads can appear in several different positions throughout the app (e.g., Reels, Stories, Messenger) the majority of TikTok ads are served in and around the main feed.

Standard TikTok video ads (i.e. In-Feed ads, Top View ads, etc.) are capable of generating huge audience reach and sky-high levels of engagement, which is why they’re popular with both smaller businesses and established corporations (more on why you should advertise on TikTok here).

For brands looking to make a statement on TikTok, formats like Branded Effects and Branded Hashtag Challenges can also be incredibly impactful.

These ads are designed to drive mass user engagement and incremental reach, and many brands have achieved viral fame by utilizing these creative formats.

There’s no doubt TikTok ads can be highly effective for digital advertisers, particularly if you’re able to tap into popular trends (like Stitching) and create content that resonates with your target audience.

tiktok ad example

Image source

Facebook ads vs TikTok ads: Head to Head

It’s time for a good old-fashioned social media showdown. We’ve done a comparison on TikTok ads vs Instagram Reels ads, now it’s time to compare Facebook and TikTok in a few key marketing areas and see how these paid social powerhouses stack up against one another.

Costs

To kick things off, let’s examine the average costs associated with TikTok ads:

  • TikTok average CPM (cost per mille): $10.00
  • TikTok average CPC (cost per click): $1.00

For comparison, below are the average costs of Facebook ads:

  • Facebook average CPM: $7.00
  • Facebook CPC (Cost Per Click) – $1.00

Both platforms are evenly matched when it comes to their average CPC, but Facebook is significantly cheaper than TikTok in terms of CPM. As a result, Facebook takes the victory in this category, enabling brands to achieve more cost-efficient reach.

However, this does come with a caveat.

It’s worth remembering that your campaign costs will be influenced by many factors, including your industry, target audience, ad formats, and bidding strategy. The above figures can be used as a helpful guide, but they’re certainly not written in stone.

facebook ads average cost per click

Image source

Demographics

Now let’s break down the demographic profiles of the Facebook and TikTok audiences.

TikTok is known for its insane popularity among younger generations, and the data certainly backs this up. A whopping 41.7% of TikTok users fall into the 18-24 bracket – 31% are aged 25-34, while just 24.1% are aged over 35.

tiktok user distribution worldwide

Image source

Facebook, on the other hand, attracts a broader mix of age groups. Just 22.6% of the Facebook audience falls under the 18-24 umbrella, while 31% of the user base is aged 25-34, making this the largest segment on the platform.

Older generations are also better represented on Facebook, with 41% of users over the age of 35 compared to just 24.1% on TikTok.

facebook user distribution worldwide

Image source

So, what does this mean for marketers?

Well, if you’re interested in targeting Gen Z and younger millennial shoppers, TikTok is the place to be. The platform is massively influential among younger audiences, with data suggesting that 40% of Gen Z prefer using TikTok for searches rather than Google.

For brands less focused on younger generations, Facebook offers a more balanced user base, as well as a significantly higher reach. Facebook boasts around 2.96bn monthly active users, compared to TikTok’s 1.2bn monthly users.

Targeting

Audience targeting is fairly standardized across TikTok and Facebook, with both platforms offering basic options such as:

  • Demographic targeting
  • Interest targeting
  • Behavior targeting
  • Device targeting

privacy-first facebook ad targeting guide

 

Advertisers can also build pixel data-fuelled Custom Audiences on both TikTok and Facebook, as well as generate Lookalikes based on these segments.

However, the main difference here is that Facebook has been collecting and harnessing audience data for significantly longer than TikTok.

Facebook first introduced its ad platform way back in 2007, while TikTok ads only launched in 2020. That’s a sizable head start for Facebook, meaning the platform has access to a lot more user data and audience insights that can be used to improve campaign performance.

Although TikTok and Facebook offer near-identical targeting options, Facebook has the edge because it’s sitting on a goldmine of historical data.

Formats

TikTok and Facebook both offer a range of versatile ad formats, so let’s compare their offerings head-to-head.

Facebook allows advertisers to utilize the following ad formats:

  • Image ads
  • Video ads
  • Carousel ads
  • In-Stream Video ads
  • Stories ads
  • Collection ads
  • Messenger ads

facebook messenger ad example A Facebook Messenger ad example. (Image source)

Below are the ad formats available on TikTok:

  • In-Feed ads
  • Top View ads
  • Brand Takeover ads
  • Branded Hashtag ads
  • Branded Effects ads
  • Collection ads

tik tok ad examples

Image source

Once again, this category is remarkably close between the two platforms. Both Facebook and TikTok offer ad formats that can be used to achieve specific objectives. For example, In-Feed video ads to build brand awareness, or Collection ads to drive conversions.

The key difference here is that Facebook ads can be served in multiple environments across the app, while the TikTok platform design is more streamlined.

For example, Messenger and Stories ads appear in completely separate sections of the Facebook site, while TikTok ads are delivered in (or around) the home feed.

If you’re keen to test out a broad range of versatile ad formats, Facebook is a great option. However, if you want to maximize visibility, the simpler layout of TikTok may be more appealing.

Analytics

The ability to monitor, analyze, and optimize your paid social ad performance is crucial for success.

So which of these networks is best suited for campaign measurement?

The truth is that Facebook and TikTok are both well-equipped in the analytics department.

As marketing platforms, both Facebook and TikTok are designed to help advertisers achieve optimal results through accurate and accessible analytics. Each platform offers a built-in analytics dashboard (i.e. the Facebook Ads Manager and TikTok Ads Manager) that enables brands to monitor performance, create custom reports, and track conversions.

Beyond basic analytics, Facebook and TikTok also offer additional measurement options, such as Brand Lift studies and the ability to implement a tracking pixel on your website.

brand lift study in facebook ads

How Facebook ads brand lift studies work. (Image source)

You’ll never struggle to track and analyze your ad performance on either of these platforms, so this category is a clear draw.

How to use Facebook & TikTok ads together

TikTok and Facebook ads together are effective and profitable for businesses old and new, big and small.

Both platforms have their own unique strengths and marketing opportunities, which begs the question: How can you leverage both partners to accelerate your returns?

Let’s explore how you can combine Facebook and TikTok ads to drive optimum performance.

1. Gather & implement insights across platforms

If you want to grow your business in today’s environment, a cross-channel advertising strategy is a must. This means running ads on different channels like search and social, as well as on different platforms within these channels, like on TikTok and Facebook within social.

Running ad campaigns across multiple social media platforms enables you to collect more insights and apply more learnings. Be sure to frequently analyze your campaign reports on both TikTok and Facebook to identify these valuable cross-platform opportunities.

For instance, there may be a high-performing Facebook audience segment that you can replicate on TikTok or an effective creative asset that you can repurpose across platforms.

2. Strengthen your brand identity

I emphasized the importance of solidifying your brand identity in my Facebook trends post and this applies across platforms as well.

To do so, maintain a clear tone of voice across these platforms, use the same branding elements (colors, fonts, imagery, vibes), and regularly interact with your audience on both networks. Consistency is a great way to build trust among consumers, so use both Facebook and TikTok as a launchpad for your brand.

brand consistency across social ads

3. Expand your campaign reach

This may sound obvious, but make sure that you’re using Facebook and TikTok to effectively increase your overall reach and frequency.

Both of these networks give you access to unique audiences and specific demographics, so take full advantage of this. Experiment with different target audiences to discover new prospects, and make sure that both platforms have sufficient budget for scaling up (how to scale your Facebook ads here).

Maximize your Facebook & TikTok ad returns

TikTok and Facebook can both deliver outstanding results when used individually, but when these social media giants are combined, the sky’s the limit.

By capitalizing on the strengths of each platform and following some of these best practices, you can transform your paid social marketing into a well-oiled, conversion-driving machine.

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Account-Level Negative Keywords Now Available in Google Ads: What You Need to Know

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Account-Level Negative Keywords Now Available in Google Ads: What You Need to Know

While we’re all striving for different business and marketing goals with our PPC campaigns, we do all have one thing in common: to get the highest return on our investment. And there are a number of ways to facilitate that—one of which is through negative keywords.

And just recently, Google announced that account-level negative keywords are now available globally.

 

So what are they, what’s changing, and what does it mean? Read on to find out!

Quick refresher: What are negative keywords?

The PPC community includes advertisers of all levels, so before we dive into the announcement, let’s do a quick refresher on negative keywords. We do have a definitive guide to negative keywords which you are welcome to delve into, but we’ll cover the basics here:

When you create a Google Ads search campaign, you have to tell Google which keywords you are targeting/bidding on. These represent the queries that users type into the search bar that you want your ads to appear for. So if I’m selling box springs, I might target the keyword box spring and my ad might appear for queries like affordable box spring or box spring twin.

Conversely, negative keywords are the terms that you don’t want your ads to appear for. So if I only sell box springs, I might set mattresses as a negative keyword; or if the campaign is only for twin box springs, I’d want to add king box spring, queen box spring, etc. as negatives.

negative keyword match types in google ads

Image source

Negative keywords are important as they help your ads to appear only for the most relevant searches, which improves click-through rate and conversion rate and saves you from wasted spend.

What are account-level negative keywords?

You’ve always been able to create negative keyword lists for each of your campaigns. In account structure terms, this is called the “campaign level” and now, you can also set them at the account level. This means that if you have one term you want to set as a negative for all of your campaigns, instead of adding it to each individual negative keyword list in each campaign, you can just add it once at the account level and it will be applied across all campaigns.

What campaign types does it apply to?

When you set an account-level negative keyword, it will apply to all eligible search and shopping campaign types, which includes Search, Performance Max, Shopping, Smart Shopping, Smart, and Local campaigns (get a refresher on all Google Ads campaign types here).

In fact, negative keywords for Performance Max campaigns are account-level only, as noted by Jon Kagan in a recent #PPCChat:

Robert Brady responded saying this seems to encourage a second Google Ads account for PMax:

Julie Bacchini brought up the same idea in a separate thread, calling it “laughable” and ineffective.

A1.1:

I am not currently running any PMax campaigns in Google Ads, but their whole “we have solved brand terms” solution – letting you add account level brand negatives is laughable.

It neither addresses the issue advertisers have nor solves it.https://twitter.com/hashtag/PPCChat?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#PPCChat

— Julie F Bacchini (@NeptuneMoon) https://twitter.com/NeptuneMoon/status/1620470621380526080?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 31, 2023

 

How to add account-level negative keywords

To add account level negative keywords in Google Ads, go to Account Settings > Negative keywords. Click the plus button and enter them in.

account settings - account level negative keywords in google ads

For more help with managing your keyword lists in Google Ads, here are some additional resources:



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What the Big Tech Layoffs Mean for SMBs & PPC: 8 Key Takeaways

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What the Big Tech Layoffs Mean for SMBs & PPC: 8 Key Takeaways

Unless you live under a rock (I can say that because I’ve been known to camp out under a pebble or two), there’s no doubt that you’ve been hearing about one thing in the news lately:

Big Tech layoffs.

Microsoft, Google, Amazon.

It even has its own hashtag #layoffs2023.

Mass layoffs of any kind are unsettling no matter how applicable they are to you, but as a small business owner or marketer, you may have some concerns. Yes, this is “Big” Tech, but does this or will this have any implications for small businesses? Many of these companies are also ad platforms, so will this have any impact on PPC?

I’ve taken a dive into the story from this angle to provide you with some key takeaways. Read on to learn:

  • What’s happening in Big Tech?
  • Why are all these layoffs happening?
  • What does it mean for online advertising and small businesses?

What’s happening in Big Tech?

In January of 2023 we saw more layoffs in the Big Tech sector than in any month since the pandemic. To put things in perspective, there were 159,684 tech job cuts in 2022, but in January of 2023 alone, we saw 68,502. That’s more than 43% of what we saw in all of last year.

big tech layoffs 2022 vs 2023

Companies that have conducted mass layoffs in January and recent months include Google, Microsoft, Informatica Salesforce, Amazon, SAP, IBM, Spotify, Wayfair, Coinbase, and Vox Media.

As mentioned earlier, mass layoffs innately are concerning, but the reason why this situation is of particular interest is that not only is it unexpected, but it’s also being called one of the worst contractions in the industry’s history.

And it’s also a little peculiar when you look at it in relation to the labor market. As The Atlantic writer Derek Thompson points out:

  • During the 2010s, the labor market was weak but the tech sector was growing.
  • During the pandemic, the economy had a “flash freeze depression” while tech took off.
  • Today, the labor market is strong but tech is “bleeding.”

So what’s going on here?

Why are all these layoffs happening?

There are multiple factors at play, which Derek’s article does a great job covering. Here’s the rundown:

The expected tech “acceleration” from the pandemic turned out to really just be a “bubble.”

Tech companies, consumers, and investors alike all subscribed to the notion that the surge in remote work, ecommerce, and other online platforms during the pandemic put us on the fast track to the 2030s. But this has not been the case. We never made it there; we’re still just on our way and we’re settling back into the same speed of travel as in 2019. As a result, all of that expansion and investing now is in excess. Hence the contraction.

Inflation caused an advertising slump

Keep in mind that many of these tech companies—Google, Meta, Amazon, etc.— are also advertising platforms. And with inflation reaching its highest levels in 40 years in 2022, many businesses pulled back on advertising as this is often one of the first areas to see cuts during a shaky economy—not to mention the fact that advertising costs increased along with everything else.

Companies are preparing and adjusting

For some companies, the layoffs are happening also as a proactive measure. While inflation appears to be on the mend (it has dropped from 9% to 6.5%), economists, and therefore businesses and consumers are still wary of a recession. If these companies want to maintain profitability and to send the right message to shareholders, they need to prepare for businesses and consumers to continue cutting back on spend even in the new year—which means cutting back on spending themselves.

Of course there are spinoff theories and schools of thought, but these are the core reasons you’ll find woven throughout any coverage on the matter.

What does it mean for small businesses and PPC?

Alright, so now that you have a grasp on what’s happening and why, let’s talk about what this means for small businesses and PPC according to news articles, last week’s PPC chat discussion, and the very PPC experts who contribute to our blog! Here are some key takeaways that feel particularly pertinent:

1. Big tech is not at risk

“Revenue decline” doesn’t necessarily mean that any of these businesses are failing or on their way out. Remember, these aren’t just businesses, they are behemoths. And as Tech Reporter Bobby Allyn’s NPR article cited earlier states, while these changes are historic, they’re still small on a percentage basis.

These companies are still massively wealthy and Big Tech has been on a strong growth trajectory for the past ten years. Microsoft alone made $198 billion in revenue in 2022.

microsoft annual revenue

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These measures aren’t a sign that they’re on the brink of disappearance, but rather course correction in accordance with the post-pandemic story as it unfolds, to get back on that growth trajectory.

2. This is only temporary; digital advertising will still grow

Given the above, it’s not surprising that many PPCers feel this is only temporary and aren’t concerned about there being a further economic downturn or ripple effect on small businesses or advertising in general.

Take digital marketing strategist, author, and speaker Anders Hjorth’s Tweet in #PPCChat, for example:

We also asked Brett McHale, founder of Empiric Marketing, LLC and regular WordStream contributor for his take on the matter and he shared the same sentiment:

“We have seen economic downturns and mass layoff lead to eventual booms/bubbles—what comes to mind is the 2008 economic crisis that eventually gave way to the tech boom of the 2010s. I’m not necessarily saying that is what is going to happen now, just that these economic situations tend to have a cyclical nature to them.”

It’s worth noting also that no one expressed concerns about any one platform in particular other than Twitter, for obvious reasons.

3. It could open up new opportunities

Another perspective that many PPC influencers and practitioners share is that with so many talented people out of work and with time on their hands, there is potential for new opportunities or movements to happen. Paid search manager Sarah Steman Tweeted in #PPCChat:

Mark Irvine, Director of Paid Media at Search Lab Digital and regular WordStream contributor (and former Streamer!), shared this viewpoint:

“The biggest piece to think of is that there are tens of thousands of people with top-quality talent reentering the industry who have years of experience working with large numbers of clients and varied budgets. They’re also well-versed in their former company’s tools and features and have unique insight into the industry from their past roles that many of us don’t have exposure to.”

4. We may see more small consultancies open up

Brett also sees new opportunities arising, more small consultancies in particular:

“I can see many talented professionals in the space making the transition from big brands to independent contract work. Taking on a W2 employee is a massive risk for a company whereas a 1099 employee is a much lower risk, both financially and legally. Talented folks who have lost their jobs might source their talent to multiple companies to create several sources of income for themselves and handle their own health benefits under their own LLCs. “

Navah Hopkins, Brand Evangelist at Optmyzr, regular WordStream contributor (and also former Streamer!) Navah Hopkins expressed the same:

“On a personal note, I often questioned whether I made a mistake not going for one of the big brands. When the layoffs happened, it cemented for me and many other digital marketers like me that we can thrive without “big brand safety.” I’m excited to see the rise of consultants and taking lessons learned to verticals that didn’t have access to the amazing talent now on the market.”

5. Agencies and large resellers have the most to gain

Another outcome we may see, Mark pointed out, is an influx of new talent to agencies and resellers.  Here’s what he had to say:

“Agencies and large resellers likely have the most to gain from this shuffle. Compared to small businesses, they’re in the best position to attract this new talent that has experience working across a large portfolio of clients. Additionally, Google’s most recent announcement is that of reembracing its partners, specifically resellers to enable more advertisers to grow on their platforms.”

google's turn to resellers

Resellers mentioned in the article include Accenture, Interactive, Incubeta, Jellyfish, and Media.Monks.

6. Advertisers need to be on guard

One potential concern that many PPCers agreed on was that with revenue in greater focus, ad platforms may start pushing features and upsells more so than genuinely helping advertisers succeed. This wouldn’t be a novel concept by any means (Google Ads automation anyone?), but it will be important to be extra vigilant, especially if you’re a beginner advertiser.

PPC influencer Robert Brady expresses this concern in his Tweet:

He also followed that up with:

And I feel like reps will be even more insistent on pushing features that help the platform and not advertisers. @robert_brady

Mark shared the same viewpoint:

“I’m going to be increasingly skeptical of new products released over the next ~120 days. Layoff rounds right before an earnings call is not coincidental. Product announcements aren’t coincidental either. There’s still lots of great teams at these companies that are making great things, but following a round of layoffs, a product manager isn’t going to boldly recommend that they push back their new anticipated tool for another quarter or two because it’s not ready. Implicit or not, many teams will feel the pressure to produce “quickly now” rather than “correctly later.” I would be extra skeptical of anything announced or anticipated before big days for their investors in April or July. Looking at you, GA4.”

7. Be prepared for outages and/or gaps in support

Another concern is that we could see a degradation in customer support or more outages. In fact, Google Ads was out for three hours on January 23.

Many agree that support is already lacking so this could be a pain point. Navah notes that these brands will be under higher scrutiny:

“The brands doing the letting go will be under more scrutiny than ever before. I suspect true return on investment with any of these platforms (Google, Microsoft, Amazon), as well as less patience for substandard service will be the main themes of higher churn for their customers. Many of us noted that it was odd Google Ads went down hours after the layoffs, and instances like these might become more common, and the industry will have less patience for it.”

8. Moderation and policy enforcement could suffer as well

Mark comments on this final concern (as if ad disapprovals weren’t already a pain point):

Unfortunately, I agree that traditional “cost centers” like customer support are going to be pulled from first. Particularly given the recent successes in AI like ChatGPT, it’s increasingly tempting to push AI in these areas.

However, I’m also worried that there’s temptation to pull away from areas like moderation or policy enforcement. Google has increasingly automated its policy enforcement over the past few years, to poorer results, and I imagine this will continue.

Twitter sets a dangerous precedent in eliminating its moderation teams and I think that lowered bar makes for poor incentives for other tech giants to dedicate resources to important non-revenue generating teams.”

headlines about twitter eliminating moderator staff

While I hope that companies continue to reinvest in their values, even things ensuring advertisers only pay for quality traffic and filter out invalid traffic are troubling. When no one is watching, are these tech companies going to improve or maintain their standards, or are they going to be tempted to water down that wine and charge advertisers for more traffic to influence their bottom line?”

So what’s the verdict?

If you haven’t been quite sure about how what’s going on with all of these Big Tech layoffs, my hope is that this article has demystified some of that for you. And as far as how you should be feeling, I’d say that a little concern is good, but panic? Not necessary. The experts and veterans in the industry aren’t taking any drastic measures. The idea is, as Ashton Clarke Tweeted to “help clients keep a level head and maintain stability.”

So long as you stay on top of the storyline, keep an eye on your metrics, and make PPC decisions based on data, not automated recommendations, your account and performance will stay in good shape!



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